A herd of wild elephants from Yunnan Province amazed the world earlier this year, with an unprecedented northbound journey. As they returned to their natural habitat, our reporter Yang Jinghao traveled to where they set out to find out more.
YANG JINGHAO Xishuangbanna, Yunnan "I'm here at the Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve in Yunnan Province, a major habitat for Asian elephants. Last year, a herd of the giant animals left and went on an epic northward journey that captured worldwide attention. Over a year on, they've come back to these tropical rainforests, safe and sound."
During the 1,000-plus-kilometer trek, they tramped over mountains, strolled around urban areas, raided farmlands, and snuck into local farmers' homes.
Shen Qingzhong is an expert for a government-led special mission. He says the migration provided a rare opportunity to learn more about the gigantic mammals.
SHEN QINGZHONG Senior Engineer, Management Bureau, Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve "I was surprised to see how they climbed over a high floodwall, especially a baby elephant. It was totally beyond my expectations. And we found that the animal has a stronger ability to adjust to new environments than we thought."
Behind the safe return were efforts by government officers, experts, and residents along the way. Conducting round-the-clock monitoring, building temporary roadblocks, and preparing various food for the elephants, a task force took every possible means to protect the animals from harm or from disrupting human communities. A special "swimming pool" was even built before they set foot on a bridge leading to a suitable habitat.
SHEN QINGZHONG Senior Engineer, Management Bureau, Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve "They would be exhausted after such a long trek. The pond provided them a place to drink and have fun. This not only helped them cool down, but they could also get some nutrients their bodies needed."
Shen and other experts say policymakers should reflect on the incident to ensure a comfortable habitat with abundant food for the elephants.
AHIMSA CAMPOS-ARCEIZ Researcher, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences "We need to increase elephant habitat, particularly elephant habitat without much contact with people. In that sense, China is now planning a new national park. I think that's a very good thing."
Their homecoming may be the end of the journey. But it heralds the start of another pressing mission, which calls on society to engage in the protection of wildlife. YJH, CGTN, Yunnan Province.
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